How to Use Your Brain(s) to Get More Out of Life …
“The brain is not solely in the head. The brain is in the heart and more.”
Wait. Brains? Plural?
Yes. Four of them, in fact.
One, the head … two, the heart … three, the gut … and four, the spine.
Four separate, but equally important, brains.
It may seem odd — because your head brain has done a great job of convincing you it’s the only brain.
But actually, the four-brain theory makes sense. And, it could be why we struggle to get more done, more effectively, more often.
I first heard about this multiple brain theory back in 2003, when I picked up the book The Other 90% by Robert K. Cooper, PhD. And, I was reminded of it in his recent follow-up Get Out of Your Own Way.
So, these ideas have been around for at least a decade now. Fact is, they are starting to get real traction in the world of psychology and behavioral studies. And as a freelance writer, I’ve found the idea very useful in my career. Let me show you how.
Let’s start with the parts and then put them all together.
First, we have the head brain. This is our most relied-upon brain. Not because it’s the best or smartest, but because it is the loudest and most used. We are comfortable using our head brain … despite its ineffectiveness in many areas of our life.
Then, there is the gut brain. Literally more than 100 million specialized nerve cells, a complex circuitry that enables it to act independently, as well as learn, remember, and influence our perceptions and behaviors.
Third, is the heart. More than 40,000 neurons along with a complex system of neurotransmitters, proteins, and support cells as large as many of the key areas of the head brain.
Finally, there’s the newest of the brain research, the spinal column. There is less scientific evidence on this, but lots of proof. Helen Keller wrote about posture and how it helped her in decision-making and insights. And, the martial arts have long considered the spine the center of energy.
Now, here’s the thing …
We know intuitively these brains exist. We talk about them in everyday speech. Ever said, “My gut tells me …” or “Follow your heart …” or even “Stand tall …”
These aren’t just cute or clever expressions. Science is proving these to be very accurate. The problem is, we often disregard these signals in favor of the head brain’s “thinking” feedback.
Facts are, many times what we are “thinking” is actually input from our other brains. And that causes us conflict. We don't know how to process the information coming from the other brains. Mainly because we tend to discount “feelings” in favor of logic.
Thomas Stanley, author of The Millionaire Mind, calls this “Big brains, no bucks.” In other words, some of the world’s most successful people are so because they rely on their other brains more than unsuccessful people.
For instance, George Soros, billionaire investor, decides to change his market positions because he “feels opportunity in his back.”
So what … does all this mean to you? How can you use this idea of multiple brains to do more, get more, and be more?
It’s actually quite simple. You need to push the head brain aside a little more often and listen to your heart, gut, and spine instead. When making decisions or considering what to do in a situation, be aware of all your thoughts and feelings. Are some not “logical”? Could they be coming from your heart, gut, or spine?
A good way to practice this is with object writing as described in fellow writer Cindy Cyr’s article, “Ten Minutes to Better, Faster Writing.”
Then, the hard part. Take a few “risks” and just follow the instructions or prompting from the other three brains. What I’ve found is that with practice, you can build the strength of these brains … quickly.
Got a gut feeling about that client — good or bad? Follow it despite any other logic and see what happens.
Is your heart telling you to tell a certain story a certain way in your writing, but the head says that’s irrational? Follow the heart and then use the head to track what happens.
For example, a few years ago, I was called on to write a promotion for a book for AWAI. At the time, I was relatively unknown and a rookie writer at best. However, I wanted to tell my story in my voice. My heart told me this was the right approach and it would reach people the way logic can’t, even though my head told me no one knows who you are and they won't care.
My gut also told me to be very direct about the price of the book. Put it right upfront in the headline. Again, logic and my brain said the price goes at the end.
Even the co-author of the book — a very successful copywriter — doubted my lead and wrote a lead for me to test against my approach.
Well, I’m happy to report that my lead not only beat the logical approach by nearly 50%, but it also sold out the first run of the book for AWAI.
What about you?
As you look back over your life and use the clarity of hindsight, can you see any examples of when your gut, heart, spine, or head made a decision and how it turned out?
As you do, here are 4 things to look for …
- Look for Patterns — Look for patterns in relationships, career, family, shopping, driving … anything. What do those patterns tell you about how you make decisions? What brain is most accurate and why?
- Look for Early Warnings — Question hunches and surprises. Ask why you feel caught off guard or uncomfortable. Why are you more/less excited than usual? Don't dismiss the feeling, explore it.
- Pay Attention to Intuition — Do this before you can even put it into words. Ever said “This just doesn't feel right”? Don't ignore that. Give that feeling a day or two before making a decision, even if the feeling is contrary to a list of 16 logical reasons you should do something.
- Look for the Other Side — This is one I use everyday with my wife and kids. Whenever they tell me a story of what so-and-so did, I always remind them there are two sides (at least) to a story. This trains your other brains to look for data outside of the “facts” presented by the one side.
I challenge you to give your other brains a shot. In fact, let’s do it right now. What’s your gut reaction to this article? Fire away in the comments below …
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